The ongoing infrastructure drama in Washington is a perfect illustration of how, when dysfunction becomes normal, normal politics looks dysfunctional.
Let’s set the context.
For most of U.S. history, major legislation worked its way up the committee system in Congress. Deal-making, logrolling and agenda-setting would get hammered out over months of negotiations shepherded by committee chairs. Such “regular order” has withered away over the last two decades, replaced by what is now called “party government,” where the leaders—the House speaker, the Senate majority leader and the president—drive everything.
This, in turn, is why the nature of the job for rank-and-file senators and representatives has changed. Rather than legislating, the path to attention and influence goes through cable TV studios and social media, where you whip up the base to apply pressure to leadership.